Multiple NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon has admitted that being held winless in the 2008 Sprint Cup campaign hurt more than he realised, and has vowed to make the most of an improved team to ensure that there is no repeat this season.
The veteran finished seventh overall after the now familiar Chase for the Championship had shuffled the regular season order, and had four poles to go with 13 top five and 19 top ten finishes, but the trip to victory lane managed to elude the #24 Hendrick Chevrolet.
“It was a big deal last year - the season starts in February and ends in November and your goal is to win races and win the championship," he reflected ahead of the 2009-opening Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, "This is a humbling sport and last year was a humbling year for us. It made us realise just how bad we want to win and how bad we don't want to lose - and I think we can show that this year.
"Last year was a big deal, but it's behind us and we learned from it. We grow from it and make ourselves better and try to make sure it doesn't happen this year - and I don't think it's going to. I think we're a stronger, better team. I think we're taking that experience and we're making the most of it.”
Asked to pinpoint reasons for his lack of ultimate success in 2008, Gordon counted the switch to the Car of Tomorrow as among the main contenders.
“You've got to understand that one of the biggest things is the car was just totally different last year," he reasoned, "When you've been in the sport as long as I have, it's harder to adapt to changes. The longer you're in it the harder it is to adapt to changes, so some of it is me adjusting my driving. I can't change how I drive, but I can make some small adjustments.
*Guys drive their cars fast - they don't drive them loose, they don't drive them tight. Your goal is to get the car balanced perfectly front to rear but this car, because it doesn't turn in the middle very good, you've got to get it to rotate - and sometimes you've got to get it to rotate a little bit sooner.
"I had very few issues on entry to corners, so most of my issues were on middle and exit, the transition getting onto the bump stops under braking. I just like to drive into the corner so deep that, when I get on the brakes, it just transitions a bit too abrupt and too fast, so that's probably one of the biggest things I had to deal with. But it wasn't making the car loose.
"I think that we've got to compromise some of our bump stops and spring combinations to be able to allow me to drive that way, just because I do drive that way, and I've got to make a few adjustments to be a little bit smoother with those transitions as well. I saw guys that had their cars turning, but they were driving forward. That's not loose, it's not pushing, it's that car has grip. There's a big difference.